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The effects of humans on the global environment have escalated over the past three centuries.

Human population has increased 10-fold to more than 6 billion in the past 300 years and energy use grew 16-fold during the 20th century. The consequences are, among others, acid rain, photochemical ‘smog’ and climate warming.

A daunting task lies ahead for scientists and engineers to guide society towards environmentally sustainable management in this era of the ‘Anthropocene’. But at this stage we are largely treading on terra incognita.

Reference: Nature 415, 23 (2002)

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